Against all odds, COVID-19 does boost business agility
Economists might argue that the Covid-19 crisis caused a lot of damage to companies in terms of profitability.
I strongly believe the pandemic has helped to improve the way organizations collaborate internally, especially via remote work, which boosted their business or, more precisely, their business agility.
Let me explain how.
First and foremost, remote work has helped teams in democratizing information sharing.
In effect – by using digital tools, it became easier and easier to have access to information, to briefings of decisions, or to digital white boards. Leading to people not having to be physically present in meetings to understand their outcomes.
Democratizing information sharing also paved the ground for a natural transition to something that we in the agile community strongly believe in – Visualization of the work. This technique, borrowed from the lean manufacturing movement, which consists of using a board that shows all the work being done, with a card representing a single task assigned to a single person, is simple but very powerful. Not only does this bring more clarity on who is doing what within the team, but using boards helps visualize problems in the system of work. For example, too much work in progress, work with competing priorities, or tasks stuck forever. Therefore, by making both the work and the problems visible, it becomes easier for teams to discuss the latter and try to overcome them by continuously improving their system of work.
Another thing I found very powerful in the transition to remote work is the ability to have access to talent wherever it is. I remember when Covid-19 broke out, I was part of a global company and we wanted to create an agile community of practice. Thanks to remote collaboration, we were able to include skillful people located in francophone Africa. This cross-border collaboration allowed creative ideas to emerge and sparked new perspectives. We were all energized by the diversity of our backgrounds and experiences.
Finally, using digital tools during retrospectives or feedback sessions makes it possible for teams to write anonymous notes and share their ideas without the risk of being retaliated against. This ability to speak up without fear helps to improve the Psychological Safety within teams. According to Amy Edmondson, a famous psychology researcher, creating psychological safety is the number one condition for creating high-performing teams.
Nevertheless, it goes without saying that people working remotely sometimes miss face-to-face collaboration (myself included). In fact, it is true that being in the same room creates energy as people communicate not only with words, but also with their body language – such as eye and physical contact. However, according to research, flying generates an equivalent of ¼ ton of CO2 per hour. Is it worth it to generate such an amount of pollution to attend a couple of meetings?! Another food for thought.
To sum up, the Covid-19 pandemic urged companies to try new ways of working based initially on remote work, with such results as democratizing information sharing, making work visible, accessing talent everywhere, and using digital tools to foster psychological safety. These techniques have proved to be efficient in helping companies move faster, be more inclusive, colleagues being happier, and to our planet being less polluted.
by Nawel Lengliz, 11/10/22